Arguments raged over which was the most bewildering of their choices. Was it Dolan's film receiving the Grand Prix or Erdmann receiving nothing or the Iranian film receiving two awards or Assayas being given the best director award or the choice of the Palm d'Or or the choice of the best actress or Jarmusch being ignored. The jury had made such a mess of the awards it was being compared to the Sean Penn catastrophe. Had Cannes fallen into a black hole or Lars Von Trier inflicted it with a curse that had sent it spiraling totally out of its orbit as the most respected film festival on the planet?
When the jury finally strolled in to the press room nearly half an hour late it was all smiles as if unaware of the maelstrom they had generated. They all gushed at what a fantastic experience it had been being on the jury. President George Miller called it one of the best experiences one could have. Donald Sutherland said when he got on the plane tomorrow he'd miss it. As for their choices, they said they had all been vigorously and rigorously arrived at and felt proud of them all. "Nothing was left unsaid," Miller said.
But what about Erdmann someone asked. Miller pled confidentiality. He didn't wish to get into specifics on why any film didn't win an award, saying there are twenty-one films in Competiton all of which thought they deserved recognition with an award of some sort and there were only seven on offer. That didn't explain why they gave "The Salesman" two awards, other than there was an Iranian on the jury who must have been a force to be reckoned with similar to Salma Hayek on the jury that gave Tommie Lee Jones' "Three Burials" two awards. Shahab Hosseini was certainly worthy of the best actor award, but the screenplay could have gone to any number of the overlooked films. It seemed to have been given more on reputation than merit to the film's director Ashgar Farhadi.
I watched the film a second time today after the awards ceremony as I had been perplexed by some inexplicable elements in the story. They seemed even more blatantly false on a second viewing. The husband's rage at a feeble, old man who inadvertently startled his wife seems even more misplaced. It was inexplicable that he never used a police contact to trace the license plate of the man he was seeking, instead just hoping he'd return for his truck, though he didn't even have a continual watch on it, so when it does disappear he only finds the owner by a miraculous stroke of luck. It was inexplicable too that the old man would have left his keys and phone in their apartment and didn't immediately return for his truck with another set of keys, especially since his future son-in-law needed the truck for his job delivering bread. And there is a lot more.
The two awards to "The Salesman" didn't irk people though as much as Xavier Dolan winning the Grand Prix for "Its Only the End of the World." Manohla Dargis had written in the New York Times earlier in the day that it was among three films she deemed so bad they didn't deserve to be in Competiton. They others were Sean Penn's "The Last Face" and "The Neon Demon." I had an opportunity to see Dolan's film a second time before the Awards Ceremony and enjoyed it much more than I had the first time, though I wouldn't necessarily go as far as to say it deserved an award over quite a few other films. I had stood in line two hours to see it the first time at the end of the day and was too fatigued to fully focus on its barrage of dialogue. I could much more appreciate Dolan's camera work and what was being said this time. Jury member László Nemes, who won the Grand Prix last year for "Son of Saul," said he could feel the distinctive voice of Dolan from the very start of the film.
Nemes too might have been a strong supporter of the Philippine film "Ma' Rosa" that I saw for the first time today, the only Competition film that I had missed. I was so awed by the cinema verité by the veteran Brillante Mendoza of this story of a husband and wife who run a small store in the ghettos of Manila selling drugs on the side that it could win the Palm d'Or or at least best director award. It was a more powerful and heartrending tale of institutional corruption than the Romanian "Graduation" that had been my favorite for the top prize. The performances of the entire cast were breathtakingly exceptional. None stood out above another, so it was a shock that it was given the best actress award. The actress herself was utterly stunned. Her acceptance speech was a continual refrain of "I can't believe this," and a string of thank yous, interrupted by another "I can't believe this." It was one of the all-time great acceptance speeches, comparable to the best at the Oscars.
Ken Loach gave a heartfelt speech as well, half in French and half in English, lamenting these times of forced austerity that are bringing the world to near catastrophe after accepting his second Palm d'Or for "I, Daniel Blske." He castigated the "tiny few with grotesque wealth" and the right taking advantage of hard times to inflict even more pain on the have-nots. I stood in line today with a young man who saw his movie earlier in the day. He said it was the first film he had seen in the festival that touched him and brought him to tears. It was a sentiment shared by many.
Cristian Mungiu didn't seem happy at all with his best director award for "Graduation" having hopes of becoming a rare two-time Palm d'Or winner. He has served on the Cannes jury. He turned to them during his speech and said, "I know it's difficult to make a fair decision, so I thank you for doing your best." He shared the award with Olivier Assayas, whose supernatural thriller "Personnel Shopper" turned off many, especially among the panel of fifteen French critics who rate the films. Eight of them gave it zero stars, the most of any film other than Penn's, a near unanimous zero star movie.
I've mentioned all the awards except the Jury Prize, won by Andrea Arnold for the third time for "American Honey." I was hoping she might be acknowledged with a Best Director award for her extraordinary handling of a cast of non-actors galvanating about the American west selling magazine subscriptions, but it was a delight that she received anything as opinion was divided on this movie as well. I could take small satisfaction too that the jury agreed with my view of "Toni Erdmann" and Jarmsuch's "Paterson" that they were not fully realized films and more audience pleasers than substantial fare. They had been the two highest rated films by the Screen panel, but as is frequently the case, did not stand up to the scrutiny of the jury.
Now I will begin movie-withdrawal as I return to the bike as I begin training for The Tour de France five weeks away. I won't see another movie for two months, but the sixty-six movies I've seen in the past twelve days will be rattling around in my thought for days to come.